As you read this the airports of Massachusetts are working together to encourage pilots to get out, go flying and visit the various airports of the Commonwealth! The Fly the Bay State Challenge is a program designed to give us general aviation, recreational-type pilots, a purpose to our upcoming flying…
Pilots can pick up a passport book, very similar to a real passport at one of two airports on either end of the state. The passport books are available at the Northampton, MA airport, for pilots in the western portion of the state. Alternatively, pilots from the eastern portion of the state can visit the Plymouth, MA airport to grab their passport.
Once armed with a passport, the objective is incredibly simple… There are 39 public-use airports in Massachusetts ranging from the smallest (Marlboro, MA) to the largest (the Westover Air National Guard Base), yes their long runway is longer than Logan’s biggest). And yes, Logan is a part of the program too, good luck with that visit though, I haven’t figured out my visit to KBOS just yet…
The objective is to collect stamps from each airport you visit. In addition, participants must attend safety seminars, and receive an endorsement in the back of their passport book from the presenter to prove their attendance. The goals of the program are to encourage safety (hence the WINGS seminars) and to get pilots flying more and visiting new airports across the state.
Additionally, participants don’t have to be pilots. In fact, you don’t have to fly into each airport, you simply have to visit the airport. So if you’re on the road and driving by a Massachusetts airport, simply swing in to collect the stamp in your passport!
It is probably a wise thing to add checking in with your intended destination before embarking to gather the stamp at a far away airport. Some airports have the stamps available all the time, but this is not always the case. At my airport (New Bedford) for example, the stamp can be found on the Cape Air counter in the terminal… Thus, whenever the terminal is open (roughly 6am through 11pm) the stamp is available!
Last week, on Friday, July 3rd my good friend Peter and I embarked on a journey of southeastern Massachusetts to collect some stamps in our passports. We both had the EWB stamp from New Bedford and before heading out for the flight after meeting at the Mansfield airport, I got the stamp for 1B9 from Sean at the desk there…. Bringing my total to a whopping 2!
Our first stop of the day was the Norwood Memorial Airport. Based on the Fly the Bay State Challenge website, I knew that the stamp for OWD was available at the desk in the FBO, FlightLevel Aviation. Therefore, if FlightLevel was open we’d be in luck, after a quick check, I knew we’d be in luck. So we made the short 11-mile flight from 1B9 to OWD and Peter made a very nice landing on Runway 28. The gentleman at the desk at FlightLevel was very helpful and polite, providing the stamp for my 3rd stamp.
After a quick preflight and a run-up we launched and decided to head down to New Bedford for some landings. I wanted to shoot some practice landings and knowing that we’re trying to build operation counts at EWB, I figured what better place than my own airport for some practice landings? After a few full stop and a couple touch-and-go landings we made an orbit overhead the field to get a few pictures of the jets on the ramps….
Previously, I had received a message from Dave, an old friend of mine, the airport manager at the Marshfield Municipal Airport (KGHG) that he would be at GHG till at least 9pm and he had their stamp available. Peter and I took a course from New Bedford by Plymouth towards the beautiful coastline airport in Marshfield. Marshfield is home to the 3rd newest runway in Massachusetts. Stow, Minuteman Airfield recently completed their new runway and behind our new primary Runway 5/23 at EWB, Marshfield’s 6/24 is the newest in the state.
Peter made a very good landing on the beautiful new runway and we taxied in to find a ramp packed to the gills, a great thing for Dave and the team at Marshfield! We parked then pushed the plane back towards a hangar so it’d be out of the way for some other incoming aircraft. Dave left the stamp on the counter for us in the administration building and after a short walk from the plane we found the stamp and added our 4th stamps to our passports.
Following a short conversation with Dave after he returned to the building, Peter and I launched to return to Mansfield. Upon arriving back at 1B9, Peter fought a setting sun just above the trees while flying his approach to Runway 32. Despite the massive distraction in the sky, Peter made a beautiful landing and we taxied to his hangar…
I have many more stamps to collect in my passport, and that excites me. It is fun to have a mission for flying… Nothing overly pressing, do-or-die or anything like that, just a purpose. I’m the type of pilot that enjoys experiencing new airports and exploring new areas. But a program like this is just as exciting; making visiting airports like Norwood, where I’ve been so many time, exciting, just like my first visit there some 10 years ago as a student pilot.
So if you’re a Massachusetts based pilot or close by to Massachusetts, I highly recommend getting involved with the Fly the Bay State Challenge. It’s an incredible opportunity and a fun program to be involved with…
-Fly Safe, @MTElia1B9